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Continuous Nerve Block Catheters

What are continuous nerve block catheters and how are they used for post-anesthesia pain control?
Catheters are fine plastic tubes that are used to help your anesthesiologist administer anesthesia and pain medications as a continuous infusion. These catheters are inserted near bundles of nerves to provide medications that can be used to treat post-operative pain.

When are these catheters placed?
The catheters are usually placed in the pre-operative area before the start of surgery. Your anesthesiologist will ensure that you are well sedated in a safe environment before proceeding with the placement.

What surgeries are catheters helpful for?
These catheters are frequently used in surgeries of the extremities. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Foot and ankle surgery
  • Knee surgery including arthroscopic and joint replacement operations
  • Shoulder surgery
  • Forearm and hand surgery

What medications are used in the catheters?
Local anesthetics are the usual medications that are used for catheter-treated post-operative pain. Ropivicaine is the most common local anesthetic administered through catheters.

Are there any side effects associated with catheters?
Although uncommon, potential risks include:

  • Swelling
  • Infection at the insertion site
  • Systemic toxicity (rare)
  • Heart or lung problems (rare)
  • Nerve discomfort (neuritis) (rare)
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